A Snicker of Magic
Scholastic, 2014 311 pgs.
Felicity Pickle is not like other kids. She is a "word collector" and often sees words floating around people and things. She, her wandering mother, and baby sister have returned to Mama's hometown of Midnight Gulch to live with Aunt Cleo. Midnight Gulch was once a town with magic running through the veins of the residents and manifesting itself in different ways. The most famous residents were the long deceased Brothers Threadbare, who created magic while playing the guitar and banjo and broke apart after a famous duel that chased away all the magic in the town. Felicity and her new friend, wheel chair bound Jonah, think maybe there is a "snicker" of magic left in Midnight Gulch and set off to put the problems of the town to rights. They do secret good deeds for people with the help of lovable and eccentric townsfolk, all under the code name of "The Beetle". Despite her accute shyness, Felicity has agreed to participate in a school-wide talent show, playfully called "a duel" after the famous Brothers Threadbare. She plans on sharing her collected words in the form of poems, although it scares her silly. A wayward uncle returns, new friendships are formed, a new family for Felicity and her sister emerges and Felicity finally feels like she has found a home. Unfortunately, her mother is fated to wander as part of the Threadbare curse. Felicity must try to break the curse so her family can stay in tact and Midnight Gulch can restore itself to its full magical potential and its broken residents find healing. All plot points reach a climax at the big duel and Felicity must pull out her own "snicker of magic" to set things right.
First time author, Natalie Lloyd, offers readers a delightful and folksie visit to a small and, perhaps, magical town in Tennessee. We feel Felicity's frustration of always moving and her relief from at last fitting in and laying down roots. Felicity has a form of Synesthesia that enables her to see words in the air around people. It sets her apart and makes her feel alone in the world. Thanks to her new friends and reunited family, she learns to turn her "otherness" into something special. Through her words and poems Felicity is able to break the town curse, helping many folks and revitalizing the town itself. This book emphasizes the themes of the importance of family and friends, always doing good deeds for people, and embracing the magic possibly lurking in real life. The characters are all well developed and interesting. They practically walk off the page and make the reader want to ride into Midnight Gulch and stay for a spell to swap stories. The book is comfortable and simple, yet with substance, and makes magic feel possible. Both boys and girls will enjoy it. It is an excellent realistic fantasy choice for kids who don't want sorcerers and dragons. A Snicker of Magic may be too quiet a read for some, but it held my interest for all of the 311 pages. I felt myself rooting for Felicity and caring for her future and that of the other townsfolk. Can words, music, or ice cream contain magic? I like to think so and I think that Lloyd and the residents of Midnight Gulch would agree!